Covid: Thousands of Summer Holidays Could Be Wasted by ‘Pingdemia’ | Summer holidays
Thousands of UK holidaymakers are at risk of losing their long-awaited summer vacation – including a national vacation that was supposed to be a safer option – as the ‘pingdemic’ spreads across the UK.
Around 530,000 people in England and Wales received isolation alerts through the NHS Covid-19 tracking app during the first week of July, advising them to self-isolate for up to 10 days . Infection rates have skyrocketed since then, meaning the number of people ‘reported’ as the school holidays approach this weekend will be significantly higher. More than a million children in England were out of school for reasons related to Covid in the week of July 12 to 16, according to the latest figures from the Department of Education. Analysis by the BBC earlier this month suggested that 4.5 million people could be asked to self-isolate by August 16, after which fully vaccinated people will no longer be asked to self-isolate.
Many families are now counting down the days, hoping to arrive at the end of the week without a positive case in their children’s classroom, forcing them to isolate themselves and jeopardizing their vacation plans. Some parents are said to be keeping children at home to protect their vacation as cases spread.
Adding to the anxiety is widespread confusion about the implications of a Covid-19 notification. People contacted by the NHS test and trace, or those who test positive, are legally required to self-isolate for 10 full days and cannot go on vacation. However, being ‘pinged’ by the NHS enforcement does not result in a legal obligation and is technically only advisory, although the government and the NHS say people should self-isolate if they are nuts in order to stop the spread of the virus.
The ministers themselves seem to be at odds over this issue. On Tuesday morning, Paul Scully, the Minister of Business, said it was up to individuals to make informed decisions about whether to self-isolate when questioned by the app. The No.10 then quickly moved to contradict him, saying it was “crucial” to isolate if questioned.
And it’s not clear whether those who can’t travel will be able to get a refund or a deferral. Some cabin rental companies won’t give last-minute reimbursements, instead telling guests to rely on their travel insurance.
But many UK holidaymakers who have booked a domestic stay as a safer option than an overseas holiday this summer will not have considered insuring for a UK trip, and many people’s annual policies will have become lapsed during the pandemic.
Tommy Lloyd, managing director of insurance comparison site Medical Travel Compared, said: “We have seen an increased number of people purchasing travel insurance for their stay this year, but many are still betting that they are not fully protected. . If you haven’t purchased adequate travel insurance protection and are forced to cancel your trip due to your self-isolation or contracting Covid-19, unfortunately you will most likely be left behind. “
The good news is that many UK and overseas cottage and tour operators have changed their terms and conditions to allow refunds for self-isolation requests through NHS testing and traceability. One of the UK’s largest vacation providers, Awaze, whose brands include Cottages.com, Hoseasons and English Country Cottages, is among those whose customers can request a refund. But travelers trying to book a home vacation for later this summer may struggle to find availability and will often be faced with price increases for a different week or property.
However, those who cancel because they’ve been cracked by the app, rather than contacted directly by the NHS test and trace, may face different rules.
Noel Josephides, director of Aito, the travel association, which has more than 200 travel agency members, said those who canceled because they were questioned could lose money. “The general feeling is that, because you don’t have to isolate yourself by law, a full cancellation fee would be levied if you chose to do so,” he said, “although we are sure that most of Aito’s members would do their best to mitigate any loss on the part of the customer.
He added: “Accommodation and flights are unlikely to be reimbursed by suppliers, as the cancellation would likely be at the last minute, which could be overlooked by tour operators.” Instead, they should claim travel insurance.
This raises the prospect of those who act responsibly by isolating being penalized by losing the value of their vacation.
“Unsurprisingly, UK travel has taken a larger market share this year, but the majority of customers travel without or with limited coverage,” said Antony Martin, managing director of Insurefor.com, which offers test and traceability insurance among its policies. He said over the past two weeks the company had seen an increase in the number of people claiming insurance for vacations in the UK and abroad canceled due to the need for self-isolation.
In addition to affecting vacationers who have waited for their summer vacation, the situation is another blow to the beleaguered travel industry. Many companies that have been eagerly awaiting the relaxation of travel restrictions are now facing a new wave of cancellations. “Since it takes longer to cancel a reservation than to make it in the first place, we have to operate in a completely insane environment from a business standpoint,” said George Morgan-Grenville, Founder and CEO of Tour Operator Red Savannah . .
He said the company always got bookings – and those who traveled reported wonderful, uncrowded experiences – but that “cancellations and postponements keep coming… The constant stops / starts and endless changes don’t represent nimble tactics emanating from intelligent government strategy, but rather a chaotic approach underscored by hopelessly poor communications. How can a £ 238 billion industry mortgage its future on Grant Shapps’ tweets? “
Julia Lo Bue-Said, managing director of Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest consortium of independent travel agents, said it would have made sense to move the August 16 deadline forward, allowing people fully vaccinated to avoid isolation. “If thousands of people are forced to cancel, it will cause complete disarray for the travel industry,” she said. “The industry has been operating with virtually no revenue generated for 18 months now. The operational challenges and logistical fallout these changes create mean staff can’t be put on leave, reimbursements need to be processed, and customers need to be reassigned, all with limited cash flow. For travel agents in particular, many do not earn any commission until a customer has actually traveled.